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Activision Blizzard refused to voluntarily recognize the union, but its arguments for doing so have been rebuffed by the NLRB.

Chris Kerr, News Editor

October 19, 2022

3 Min Read
The GWA Albany logo

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has given QA testers at Blizzard Albany the greenlight to vote in a union election.

The decision means that 21 employees at Blizzard Albany, formerly known as Vicarious Visions, can push ahead with their attempts to establish a recognized union under the Game Workers Alliance Albany (GWA Albany) banner.

"We are thrilled to announce that the NLRB ruled in our favor to have an election of Albany QA testers at Blizzard," said the group on social media. "With 94 percent committed to winning the union, we look forward to counting ballots a month from today."

GWA Albany broke cover earlier this year and said it had come together to ensure its members would be "respected and compensated for our essential role in the development process."

"We, the QA testers of Blizzard Albany are committed to fostering an open, diverse and equitable workplace. We demand an environment where our skills, ideals, and democratic decisions are valued and respected. To that end, we have organized with the CWA to form our union," it added.

Activision Blizzard, however, said it wouldn't voluntarily recognise the union and reached out to the NRLB to explain why.

Now, according to a Decision and Direction of Election response [PDF download] published by the NLRB, it seems Activision Blizzard was attempting to argue that GWA Albany members shouldn't be allowed to unionize because they "lack a community of interest among themselves."

Essentially, the Call of Duty publisher told the NRLB that the QA workers behind GWA Albany are working on different projects and franchises ranging from World of Warcraft, Diablo IV, and Diablo II Resurrection, and as such shouldn't be allowed to organize within a single unit.

Given 20 of the 21 workers seeking to unionize are currently working on the Diablo franchise – with the other working on World of Warcraft – Activision Blizzard was essentially suggesting that lone employee should be excluded from the union vote. The NLRB wasn't convinced.

"The parties stipulated that any unit found to be appropriate must include all associate test analysts and test analysts. However, the Employer seeks to exclude a single employee assigned to the World of Warcraft franchise rather than the Diablo franchise," it wrote. "There is limited record evidence regarding any terms and conditions of employment that would render this employee an eligible or ineligible voter. I therefore make no findings as to whether this single, named employee is eligible or ineligible to vote in this election."

Activision Blizzard also contended that everyone working on the Diablo franchise at Blizzard Albany should have the chance to vote – not just those select QA workers petitioning the NRLB. The NLRB, however, also disagreed on that front, and found the current group of GWA Albany workers is indeed an "appropriate unit."

"Comparing the developers’ community of interest to that of the testers I find that the distinct interests of the testers outweigh the similarities that exist with the developers. As noted, the testers participate in the same game development process that includes significant contact and functional integration," it continued.

"However, testers are separately organized in their own department and their supervisory hierarchy is entirely separate from the Diablo franchise. Testers also have a specific set of skills and duties different from the developers. Finally, testers are paid significantly less than developers. Moreover, the evidence of interchange between testers and developers is extremely limited. For these reasons I find any shared interests between the testers and developers do not outweigh the separate interests that make the petitioned-for unit an appropriate unit. As such, I will direct an election in the petitioned-for unit."

The NLRB will now conduct a secret ballot election to find out whether GWA Albany workers wish to organize and be represented by Communications Workers of America. Ballots will be mailed to eligible voters on October 27, 2022, and must be returned to the NLRB by November 17, 2022.

About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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